There are indications that the Lok Pal Bill, 2011 is likely to be taken up for consideration and passing during the current Winter session of Parliament. The Bill was introduced on Aug 4, 2011 in the Lok Sabha after a prolonged agitation led by Anna Hazare (see PRS analysis of the Bill). It was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice (see PRS note on Committee Systems). The Committee submitted its report on December 9, 2011. The report includes 10 dissent notes from 17 MPs. (a) Kirti Azad, Bal Apte, D.B. Chandre Gowda, Harin Pathak, Arjun Ram Meghwal, and Madhusudan Yadav. (b) Ram Jethmalani (c) Ram Vilas Paswan (d) Shailendra Kumar (e) Prasanta Kumar Majumdar (f) Pinaki Misra (g) A. Sampath (h) S. Semmalai (i) Meenakshi Natrajan, P.T. Thomas, and Deepa Dasmunshi (j) Vijay Bahadur Singh Presently, the government and the Opposition are in the process of formulating their stands on various key issues such as inclusion of the Prime Minister, the lower bureaucracy and the role of the Central Investigation Bureau. We provide a broad overview of the views of the members of the Committee on various key issues. Unanimity on issues On some issues, there was unanimity among the Committee members:
Dissent on issues Certain members of the Committee dissented on specific issues. In Table 1, we list the issues and the reason for the dissent. Table 1: Recommendation of Standing Committee and dissent by individual MPs
|Issues||Standing Committee recommendations||Points of dissent||Dissenting MPs|
|Inclusion of Prime Minister||Committee left the decision to Parliament stating that there are pros and cons to each view.||- PM should be included. - PM should be brought under the Lok Pal with some exceptions for national security, foreign policy, atomic energy etc. - The decision to investigate or prosecute the PM should be taken by the Lok Pal with 3/4th majority.||- Prasanta Kumar Majumdar, A. Sampath. - Kirti Azad etc, Shailendra Kumar, Pinaki Misra.|
|Grievance redressal mechanism||Enact separate law for a grievance redressal mechanism.||Include in the Lok Pal Bill.||Kirti Azad etc, Ram Jethmalani, Shailendra Kumar.|
|Inclusion of bureaucracy||Include Group B officers in addition to Group A.||- Include all groups of govt employees. - Include Group ‘C’. - Do not include bureaucrats.||- Kirti Azad etc, A. Sampath. - Meenakshi Natrajan etc, Shailendra Kumar, Prasanta Kumar. Majumdar, Pinaki Misra, Vijay Bahadur Singh. - Ram Vilas Paswan.|
|Lokayukta||Single, central law to deal with Lok Pal and state Lokayuktas to ensure uniformity in prosecution of public servants.||States should retain power to constitute Lokayuktas.||- S. Semmalai.|
|Private NGOs, media and corporate||Include all entities with specified level of govt control or which receive specified amount of public donations or foreign donations above Rs 10 lakh.||No private organsiations should be included.||- Kirti Azad etc., Ram Vilas Paswan.|
|Composition of search and selection committees||Selection Committee: In addition to PM and Speaker, it should include the Chief Justice of India, an eminent Indian unanimously nominated by the CAG, CEC and UPSC chairman and only Leader of Opposition of Lok Sabha. Search Committee: Mandatory to constitute. Minimum 7 members with 50% members from SC/ST, OBC, minorities and women.||Selection Committee: PM, Minister, LoPs of both Houses, two judges and CVC. Search Committee: CJI, CAG, CEC, Cabinet Secretary, judges of Supreme Court and High Courts. Selection Committee: PM, LoP in the Lok Sabha, one judge of SC and one Chief Justice of a HC, CVC, CEC and CAG. Search Committee: 10 members out of which 5 should be from civil society and 5 should be retired Chief Justice, CVC, CAG and CEC. Half the members to be from SC/STs, OBCs, minorities or women.||- Kirti Azad etc. - Shailendra Kumar.|
|Removal of Lok Pal||In addition to petitioning the President, a citizen should be allowed to approach the Supreme Court directly with a complaint. If admitted, it would be heard by a 5 judge bench. If President does not refer a citizen’s petition, he should give reasons.||Investigation should be conducted by an independent complaint authority. Heavy fines should be imposed in case of a false or frivolous complaint. Instead of the President, the Supreme Court should have power to suspend a member pending inquiry.||- Shailendra Kumar.|
|Role of CVC and CBI||CVC should investigate Group C and D employees. Instead of Lok Pal’s investigation wing, the CBI should investigate cases after inquiry by the Lok Pal. CBI to have autonomy over its investigation. Lok Pal shall exercise general supervision over CBI.||CBI should be under the control of the Lok Pal. The CBI Director should be appointed by the Lok Pal’s selection committee. The CVC should be under Lok Pal and the SVCs under the state Lokayuktas.||- Ram Jethmalani, Shailendra Kumar. - A. Sampath. - Meenakshi Natrajan etc.|
|False and frivolous complaints||Term of imprisonment should be maximum six months. Amount of fine should not exceed Rs 25,000. Specifically provide for complaints made in good faith in line with the Indian Penal Code.||The term of imprisonment should not exceed 30 days.||- Kirti Azad etc.|
|Article 311||Article 311 of the Constitution should be amended or replaced with a statute.||The procedure adopted by the disciplinary authority should conform to Article 311.||- Kirti Azad etc, Meenakshi Natrajan etc.|
|Finance||Lok Pal Bill states that all expenses of the Lok Pal shall be charged to the Consolidated Fund of India (no need for Lok Sabha clearance). The Committee did not make any recommendation with regard to finances of the Lok Pal.||Lok Pal’s expenses should be cleared by the Parliament. Lok Pal should present its budget directly to Parliament rather than through a ministry.||- Kirti Azad etc. - Shailendra Kumar.|
|Sources: The Lok Pal Bill, 2011; the Department Related Standing Committee Report on the Lok Pal Bill, 2011 and PRS.|
In the last few years, several states have enacted laws to curb cheating in examinations, especially those for recruitment in public service commissions. According to news reports, incidents of cheating and paper leaks have occurred on several occasions in Uttarakhand, including during the panchayat development officer exams in 2016, and the Uttarakhand Subordinate Services Selection Commission exams in 2021. The Uttarakhand Public Service Commission papers were also leaked in January 2023. The most recent cheating incidents led to protests and unrest in Uttarakhand. Following this, on February 11, 2023, the state promulgated an Ordinance to bar and penalise the use of unfair means in public examinations. The Uttarakhand Assembly passed the Bill replacing the Ordinance in March 2023. There have been multiple reports of candidates being arrested and debarred for cheating in public examinations for posts such as forest guard and secretariat guard after the ordinance’s introduction. Similar instances of cheating have also been noted in other states. As per news reports, since 2015, Gujarat has not been able to hold a single recruitment exam without reported paper leaks. In February 2023, the Gujarat Assembly also passed a law to penalise cheating in public examinations. Other states such as Rajasthan (Act passed in 2022), Uttar Pradesh (Act passed in 1998) and Andhra Pradesh (Act passed in 1997) also have similar laws. In this blog, we compare anti-cheating laws across some states (see Table 1), and discuss some issues to consider.
Typical provisions of anti-cheating laws
Anti-cheating laws across states generally contain provisions that penalise the use of unfair means by examinees and other groups in public examinations such as those conducted by state public sector commission examinations and higher secondary education boards. Broadly, unfair means is defined to include the use of unauthorised help and the unauthorised use of written material by candidates. These laws also prohibit individuals responsible for conducting examinations from disclosing any information they acquire in this role. The more recent laws, such as the Gujarat, Uttarakhand, and Rajasthan ones, also include the impersonation of candidates and the leaking of exam papers within the definition of unfair means. Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Andhra Pradesh prohibit the use of electronic aids. Maximum prison sentences for using such unfair means range from three months in Uttar Pradesh, to seven years in Andhra Pradesh.
Issues to consider
The Gujarat and Uttarakhand anti-cheating Acts have relatively stringent provisions for cheating. The Uttarakhand Act has a fixed 3-year prison sentence for examinees caught cheating or using unfair means (for the first offence). Since the Act does not distinguish between the different types of unfair means used, an examinee could serve a sentence disproportionate to the offence committed. In most other states, the maximum imprisonment term for such offences is three years. Andhra Pradesh has a minimum imprisonment term of three years. However, all these states allow for a range with respect to the penalty, that is, the judge can decide on the imprisonment term (within the specified limits) depending on the manner of cheating and the implications of such cheating. Table 1 below compares the penalties for certain offences across eight states.
The Uttarakhand Act has a provision that debars the examinee from state competitive examinations for two to five years upon the filing of the chargesheet, rather than upon conviction. Thus, an examinee could be deprived of giving the examination even if they were innocent but being prosecuted under the law. This could compromise the presumption of innocence for accused candidates. The Gujarat and Rajasthan laws also debar candidates from sitting in specified examinations for two years, but only upon conviction.
These laws also vary in scope across states. In Uttarakhand and Rajasthan, the laws only apply to competitive examinations for recruitment in a state department (such as a Public Commission). In the other six states examined, these laws also apply to examinations held by educational institutions for granting educational qualifications such as diplomas and degrees. For example, in Gujarat, exams conducted by the Gujarat Secondary and Higher Secondary Education Board are also covered under the Gujarat Public Examination (Prevention of Unfair Means) Act, 2023. The question is whether it is appropriate to have similar punishments for exams in educational institutions and exams for recruitment in government jobs, given the difference in stakes between them.
Sources: The Rajasthan Public Examination (Measures for Prevention of Unfair Means in Recruitment) Act, 2022; the Uttar Pradesh Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Act, 1998; the Chhattisgarh Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Act, 2008; the Orissa Conduct of Examinations Act, 1988; the Andhra Pradesh Public Examinations (Prevention of Malpractices and Unfair means) Act, 1997; the Jharkhand Conduct of Examinations Act, 2001, the Uttarakhand Competitive Examination (Measures for Prevention and Prevention of Unfair Means in Recruitment) Act, 2023, the Gujarat Public Examination (Prevention of Unfair Methods) Act, 2023; PRS.